What is all this confusion over facemasks? Everyone knows that medical personnel wear facemasks to avoid infection and to limit infection of others. Yet, with blatant self-contradiction, the CDC issued “guidelines” recommending that citizens not wear medical facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic. A facemask can’t hurt you. At the same time, the CDC proclaimed their importance for protecting healthcare personnel from infection. If a facemask protects a doctor, why would it not protect me?
As the contradiction bounced around the news media, it became unavoidably clear that something else was going on here. Amid the debacle of administrative indifference to public health in the face of expert advice to act quickly and comprehensively to slow the pandemic, a debate over facemask efficacy slowly developed.
Just how effective are medical facemasks to 1) prevent the wearer from infecting others, and 2) prevent others from infecting the wearer. Well, the existing research shows that facemasks are a bit more effective in protecting others from infection by the wearer, but they are significantly effective in both directions.
Who is that Masked Man?
But of course, that is quite beside the point. It doesn’t take complex experimental studies to conclude that a barrier between your face and mine will reduce the spread of droplets from a sneeze or cough from moving between us. The CDC guidelines were never about that.
The CDC guidelines for medical facemasks were a political attempt to minimize the damage to medical professionals whose exposure to the virus is certain, by restricting these scarce items to use by front-line healthcare workers. That resulted from the previous inexcusable failure of the political administration to assure that adequate numbers of personal protective equipment (PPE) would be on hand in the event of a pandemic.
In fact, the masquerade resulted from a deadly combination of scientific ignorance with the political intention of dismantling the operational effectiveness of the government to do anything at all other than support the plutocrats who control politics and the economy. In the area of public health, early on Trump disbanded the group within the National Security Council President Obama had set up to monitor outbreaks of potentially pandemic diseases. Even so, CIA professionals had tried to warn Trump of the emerging pandemic risk.
The administration had allowed the sale of large quantities of Personal Protective Equipment, including masks overseas when supplies reserved for the US were inadequate. Various forms of the degradation of public readiness were entirely consistent with the Trumpist efforts to destroy environmental protection, worker rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself.
Because Trump refused to listen to epidemiologists or CIA analysts when the new Coronavirus came to light, it got way ahead of the efforts of public health officials to slow the epidemic before it became a pandemic. Unlike South Korea and some other nations, the US is now way behind and has more cases than any other nation. It is very difficult to catch up with a pandemic.
Now that the absurd attempt to divert the public from using masks became news, the CDC has revised its guidelines to recommend that people wear “cloth masks” whenever we go out in public.
It is very gratifying that numerous individuals and groups around the nation are trying to help in any way they can. Some have begun hand-making facemasks out of whatever cloth they can round up. Everyone knows that cloth facemasks are probably not as effective as the medically designed F95 facemasks and surgical masks. But they do help.
It is particularly offensive, however, that instead of invoking the proper authority to escalate the manufacture and distribution of N95 medical facemasks to the entire population, the government recommends that citizens wear “cloth masks.” The pretend-president (a real president would be an actual leader) emphasizes that the recommendation is strictly “voluntary,” and that he will not comply. Meanwhile, such masks are valuable only to the extent that people can use the few volunteers can make because proper medical facemasks are unavailable.
The charade of serious governmental response to the extremely dangerous COVID-19 pandemic goes on, even as its fake leadership is unmasked.